Smath's blog

Tiny pencil-tip sculptures by Dalton Ghetti

10 October, 2010 - 05:29

Every now and again ones mom sends one an email with pictures that one must google because they seem near impossible.

Sculptures by Dhalton Ghetti

This morning's email forward was about a man named Dalton Ghetti who has been creating these little guys for 25 years. From April to August this year some of his work was exhibited at the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut in an exhibition called Meticulous Masterpieces.

From the museum's website:
Dalton Ghetti, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, has been making his pencil creations since he was a schoolboy in Brazil. Using a variety of simple razors and needles, he carves incredibly detailed miniature sculptures out of the lead core of pencils without the aid of technology or even a magnifying glass. Alphabet, 2005, comprised of 26 individual pencils, is his most famous work.


Alphabet carved by Dhalton Ghetti

The level of detail is phenomenal and I'm definitely a fan (plus I like hearts - could you tell?).

I did a bit of poking around and it seems, sadly, that he doesn't have his own website. There's plenty of buzz about him on the net though and he was even featured in a post on BoingBoing.

Some Things You Are Not Allowed to Send Around The World

8 October, 2010 - 04:02

Near the end of a long trip in 2006 I visited the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol where I picked up a poster entitled "Some things You Are Not Allowed To Send Around The World". By sheer coincidence I now have a blog post of that very same title. Perhaps it is a sign.

Artist Melanie Jackson created a poster as an artwork which lists different countries' bizarro mailing rules. This is a snippet from her website:

Some Things You Are Not Allowed To Send Around The World is a poster made up of the recent ‘prohibition and restriction’ guidelines issued by international post offices. The assembled list reveals some of the superstitions and regional eccentricities associated with the exchange of goods. This poster will be available as one of a series of free publications produced for the exhibition.

I was completely fascinated and amused by the list and while you will sadly not be getting any free posters from this website, I have provided you with its contents below *.

I love YOU, Czech Republic: "Chain letters". My comments are in grey.

Algeria Australia Benin
China Croatia Czech Republic
Ecuador Dominican Republic Faroe Islands
France Germany Iceland
Israel Italy Jamaica
Jordan Kuwait Morocco
Oman Paraguay Peru
Somalia Sri Lanka Tajikistan
United Kingdom Unites States of America Quatar
Vietnam Zimbabwe
  • Articles made of tortoise-shell, mother of pearl, ivory, bone meerschaum and amber (succin), natural or reconstructed, worked jade and mineral substances similar to jade
  • Canned vegetables, fish, plums and nuts
  • Funeral urns
  • Household articles made of tin
  • Perishable infectious biological substances
  • Perishable non-infectious biological substances
  • Pictures and printed matter of pornographic or immoral nature, or which tend to incite crime or juvenile deliquency
  • Saccharine in tablets or packets
  • Used clothing, accessories, blankets, linen, textile furnishings, footwear and headwear
  • Watches and clocks.
  • Fruit cartons (used or new)
  • Goods bearing the name "Anzac"
  • Animals and animal products, brushes, second-hand carpets, margarine, vaccines, plant and plant material (including pot pourri, heather, fir cones, shamrock), sugar, syrup and molasses, straw packing
  • Goods produced wholly or partly in prisons or by convict labour
    "We'll produce our own, mate."
  • Cinema films
    They aren't big into non-alcohol related fun in Australia
  • Registered philatelic articles with fictitious addresses
    And let's all be truthful here. Nobody likes a stamp-collecter.
  • Seditious literature
  • Alcoholic beverages and products which could be used for the manufacture of alcoholic beverages
  • Banana, citrus, cocoa, coffee, cotton plants, sugar cane, saccharine and chemical food colouring
  • Gramaphone records
  • Medals and coins
  • Military equipment
  • Mineral water
  • Uncut diamonds
  • Water hyacinths
  • Articles in hermetically sealed non-transparent containers
  • Funeral urns containing ashes
  • Pork products
  • Printed matter, manuscripts, notices, photographic negatives, gramophone records and sound-track tapes which could do political, economical, cultural or moral harm to the People's Republic of China
  • Radio transmitters or receivers
  • Wrist-watches, cameras, television sets, radio sets, tape recorders, bicycles, sewing machines and ventilators
  • Celluloid and film
  • Grain grown or stored in the UK
  • Plants and seeds
  • Raw meats, meats, milk and dairy products of all kinds from cattle, goats, pigs, sheep and other cloven hoofed animals
  • Spoons, forks, whistles
Czech Republictop
  • Chain letters
  • Publications, sheet music, drawings, photographs, films etc prejudicial to the Republic
    Heaven help you if you're caught posting prejudicial chain letters
  • Feeding bottles
  • Footwear of leather, fabric or rubber
  • Horse bits and mouth pieces of copper
  • Items and objects of immoral nature eg horse bits?
  • Pointed or sharp-edged objects
  • Preparations for erasing ink or other writings
  • Roulette wheels or gambling articles
  • Straw hats
    A straw hat in Ecuador stays a straw hat in Ecuador
Dominican Republictop
  • Communist literature
  • Poniards, daggers, stilletos, sticks, or fans with concealed blades or firearms
    At least one country has recognized stilletos as the dangerous items they are and classified them accordingly
  • Roulette games and other gambling devices
Faroe Islandstop
  • Danish currency
  • Dried milk products, honeycombs
  • Raw hides
I hadn't even heard of this place but should I ever wind up there I will now know not to try and post my raw hides and Danish currency
  • Measuring instruments marked in units not complying with French law
    The French are really serious about implementing standards.
  • Absinthe
  • Articles bearing political or religious notions on the address side
    What, so you can post them as long as they're not on the address side? *shreds all the religious-notion postcards I'd just written to all my friends and family
  • Melatonin
    I find this one quite interesting considering that melatonin is an over-the-counter drug in many other places
  • Playing cards, except in complete decks properly wrapped
    "Ve vill not tolerate anyone in foreign countries cheating anyone in a game of cards posted in ZIS country!"
  • Pulverized cocoa beans
  • Bees
    But Iceland is facing an economic meltdown! How am I supposed to get my bees out?!
  • Hay and straw
  • Lead toys
  • Rags
  • Silk worms
  • Blank invoices with headings
  • Games of chance
  • Indecent or obscene marks, paintings, photographs, books, cards, lithographs, or engravings
  • Organic fertilizers
  • Lottery tickets or advertisements
    If any of these are discovered they will be tossed straight into the non-organic fertilizer pile
  • Soil and sand
    I think that the person who tries to mail sand has a bigger problem than Israel's restrictions
  • Spices exceeding 1kg
  • Used beehives
    Sorry, Amy Winehouse.
These guys are severe
  • Albums of any kind
  • Artificial flowers and fruits and accessories for them
    Huh? You mean like those awful garden gnomes?
  • Bells and other musical instruments and parts thereof
    for these shall surely drive the mailman nuts
  • Cartridge caps, cartridges
  • Clocks and supplies for clocks
    this is part of their plan to have the rest of the world be as un-punctual
  • Compound medicaments and medicines
  • Coral mounted in any way
  • Ether and chloroform
    Ok, fair enough...
  • Exposed photographic and cinematographic films
  • Footwear of any kind
    Oh sweet torture. Why Italy, why? We love your shoes.
  • Haberdashery and sewn articles of any kind, including trimmings and lace; handkerchiefs; scarves; shawls; needlework including stockings and gloves; bonnets, caps and hats of any kind
  • Hair and articles made of hair
    Like my dad!
  • Leather goods
  • Lighters and their parts, including lighter flints
  • Live bees, leeches and silkworms
  • Nutmeg, vanilla, sea salt, rock salt, saffron
  • Parasites and predators of harmful insects
  • Perfumery goods of all kinds (except soap)
  • Playing cards of any kind
  • Postage stamps in sealed or unsealed letters
  • Ribbons for typewriters
  • Roasted or ground coffee and its substitutes, roasted chicory
  • Saccharine and all products containing saccharine
  • Salted, smoked or otherwise prepared meats, fats and lard
  • Toys not made wholly of wood
  • Treated skins and furs
  • Weapons of any kind and spare parts for them
  • Cotton and parts of cotton plants
  • Cordage and twine
  • Figurines
  • Honey, cocoa and cocoa products, coffee products, condensed milk
  • Advertisements concerning treatment of venereal diseases or medicinal preparations intended to serve as preventatives against those diseases
  • Rubber balloons
  • Binoculars
  • Alcoholic drink
    Because you know what happens with balloons and binoculars after a few alcoholic drinks..!
  • All goods of Israeli origin
  • Political publications
  • Tapes and casettes
  • Seditious literature
  • Spirits
  • Spurious substances designed to adulterate food and drink
    You mean like McDonalds?
  • Articles contrary to the principles of Islam
  • Liquid chemicals
  • Fire extinguishing products
  • Cultured, immitation, artificial and bleached pearls
  • Batteries
  • Plastic Toys
  • Soaps
  • Stocking and socks except those made of jersey
    >Because they want their country to be totally rid of any stockings made of jersey! I can respect that.
  • Suitcases, leather bags
  • Wool blankets
  • Artificial flowers and interior ornaments
    Because they're in poor taste?
  • Cameras
  • Ceramic products and immitation jewellery
  • Clothing, accessories, and underwear
    I'm sure stockings made of jersey do not count as being any of those items
  • Communist propoganda
  • Contraceptive products, remedies or apparatus
  • Credit cards
  • Daggers
  • Electrical household appliances
  • Ether
  • Footwear, shoes, boots and accessories
  • Furs and clothing made of fur
    Good for you, Peru. This is one I can stand by
  • Gloves and hosiery
  • Household articles of iron, steel, copper and aluminium
  • Household linens
  • Knuckledusters
  • Lighters
  • Perfume products or soaps
  • Playing cards
  • Politically sensitive material
    Having trouble imagining who would, or how this ever would happen
  • Sabres
  • Sound recorders and reproducing devices
    I hope you specified a return address on the photocopier that you mailed to Peru
  • Textiles and carpets
  • Toys or games for children which might harm the cultural or historical heritage of Peru
  • Travel articles, suitcases, attache cases, kits or similar articles
  • Waxes and creams for shoes
    Because these items do not exist in Peru
  • Wooden utensils
It seems that what exists in Peru, stays in Peru.
  • Abortifacients
  • Aphrodisiacs
    I suppose banning this item helps eliminate the need for the previous item
  • Condensed milk
    Likewise with this ;)
  • Picture postcards
Sri Lankatop
  • Account books, albums, calendars, carbon paper, chalk, envelopes, exercise books, pencils, pens, pen-holders, pins, registers, rubbers, wire clips
    In fact, make that any item that might encourage nerdy behaviour.
  • Ashtrays
  • Bicycle parts
  • Cameras and other photographic apparatus
  • Clothing and footwear
  • Crockery, tablewear, picnic baskets, flasks
  • Chemical products
  • Electric lamps for household use, torches
  • Greeting cards
  • Handbags and cases, traveling cases
  • Household electrical equipment
  • Jewellery and jewel cases
  • Household electrical equipment
  • Playing cards and similar games
  • Illustrated postcards
  • Publicity materials including films
  • Sarees
  • Scales
  • Sports goods
  • Sunglasses
  • Tape recorders and tape recorder parts
  • Toiletries
  • Toys made of earthenware or wood
  • Varnishes
  • Waste paper
I'd never even heard of Tjikistan before receiving this poster.
  • Documents, printed matter, photographs, and so on likely to be construed as prejudicial to Tajik views
  • Corrected proofs and printed matter with marked words or phrases
  • Stamp collections sent to private persons
  • Sulphate or copper
United Kingdomtop
  • Any postal item containing enclosures addressed to different persons at different addresses
  • Citizenz Band Radios, walkie-talkies, microbugs, and radio microphones that are capable of transmitting on any frequency between 26.1 - 29.7 megacycles per second and 88-108 Mhz per second
  • Goods made in foreign prisons, except those imported for a non-commercial purpose or of a kind not manufactured in the UK
  • Horror comics and matrices
  • Obscene articles, prints, paintings, cards, films, videotapes, etc
  • Seal skins except those from an accepted source
  • Switchblade knives
Unites States of Americatop
  • Advertisements for obscene/immoral articles
    I wonder how they gauge what is obscene or immoral in the land of the free?
  • Advertisements relating to lotteries
  • Contraceptives
  • Goods originating in Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam
  • Articles giving off a fetid odour
  • Cultured, immitation and bleached pearls
  • Items whose make-up does not comply with regulations
  • Garments bearing the name of the divinity or verses from the Koran
  • Obscene or immoral articles
  • Musical greeting cards
  • Remote controlled toy aircraft for children
  • Invisible ink, codes, cyphers, symbols or other types of secret correspondence, and shorthand notes
  • Perishable infectious biological substances
  • Radio transmitters and receivers and radio set accessories of any kind
  • Sealed, tinned foodstuffs
  • Unused postage stamps
  • Used clothing, blankets, mosquito nets, and shoes
    These guys are crazy. How did shoes wind up categorized alongside mosquito nets?
  • Aphrodisiacs
    Perhaps this explains the mess that Zim is currently in.
  • Circulars relating to lotteries
    Because nobody anywhere has any money anymore in Zimbabwe
  • Fortune telling advertisements

* DISCLAIMER: I have not validated or even attempted to validate or cross check any of the information in this list. I have a job and more importantly I have a life that extends beyond the internet, so please don't turn up at my home wielding pitchforks and bad vibes if you spot something here that you believe to be incorrect. Having said that, I'd like to believe that this is all true and most especially the bit about the Czech Republic and chain letters, which would make them a more evolved being than the rest of us.

My love affair with the air. A long winded rambling about what has become my nightmare.

21 September, 2010 - 06:26

Pure, unbridled terror. You know what it feels like. Your palms are soaked wet and your heart is pounding so loudly that you're certain that it must be disturbing the person sitting next to you. I started writing this post on a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, the first of 9 flights that I've scheduled to take over the next month. I sucked back a triple dose of Rescue Remedy within the first 10 minutes of the flight and that just wasn't cutting it, so I drank. When I'm on the plane all my senses switch to hyper-alert and every little sound or motion change shakes me up. I notice that the man 2 rows ahead of me has a cast on his right foot, which is hanging out in the aisle. It could be worse, I think to myself... if this plane goes down, that man is a goner for certain.

My love affair with the air began in 1989 when I was 7 years old. Our family had moved to Johannesburg from Port Elizabeth because my Dad had been transferred for work. That year my mom bought me a ticket back to Port Elizabeth to visit my best friend. It became a yearly treat. At the airport all the nice air hostesses would fuss over me and take care of me, thanks to my UNACCOMPANIED MINOR status. Flying became a real treat and over and above the destination what I looked forward to immensely was the flight. I absolutely loved the magic of being in the air and would do my best to secure myself a spot at the window. I couldn't stop looking out at all the tiny things down on the ground.

I'm not what you'd call a stranger to flying. Since 2000 I've done individual trips to England (three times), Nigeria, Buenos Aires and Tanzania, done a round-the-world trip in 2006 (18 flights), traveled to Drupalcon Barcelona in 2007 (8 flights), a trip to New York in 2007 (with 3 flights), a round-the-world trip in 2008 (17 flights), this latest batch of flying madness involving Drupalcon Copenhagen & Canada, and countless domestic trips in-between. I would even go so far as to say that I like being at the airport.

Well - liked, anyway. In November 2008 I set off on the start of a new exciting round the world trip, and I had all sorts of ideas and plans and more excitement than I could contain. First stop Buenos Aires with a layover in Sao Paulo. The flight departed from Sao Paolo on time in the early evening and would land in BA after dark. I had a whole 3-seater row to myself, and it had been a long day of flying so I slept lightly most of the way. All was well and I was looking forward to the indulgent pleasure of being in this new amazing city, and to being with Scott again who I had not seen since September.

I was woken up to the sound of the seatbelt sign being switched on. Ok I thought, it's only a few minutes until landing and the plane was descending at what felt like a swift pace.

I could not have been more unprepared for what happened next. The plane hit very bad turbulence and dipped down hard. It sounded like the pilot had smashed the jet's belly down onto solid concrete. I was strapped in but obviously not well enough because I lifted completely off of my seat. After the sudden drop the plane flipped completely over onto its left side, and then onto its right and back again onto its left and then finally we straightened out and proceeded with a very turbulent descent. The scene played out in slow-motion for me. I could see all the sparkling lights of the city down below. It was like being in a car where the driver has lost control of the vehicle and tries to straighten out but over-corrects. There was an announcement made by the pilot after the flipping and bumping on the plane but it was in Spanish and I'll never know for sure just how close we were to crashing that day. Of course the attendant I spoke to afterwards assured me that everything was fine but they are robots and are trained to do that.

At that time I believed that I was going to die in that plane. A million thoughts raced across my mind, and the first was that Scott would arrive in BA the next day and think that I had stood him up. I imagined him being in this foreign country alone. I wondered if he'd stay for the full three months after learning of our plane crash or if he'd be freaked out and go back home to Vancouver. I thought about my mom and dad and sister, and I thought about the data on my laptop and wished that I'd backed up before leaving home so that my clients could get their work from it. I thought of the cash withdrawal I'd just made at Johannesburg International Airport before I left that morning, the largest amount of cash I'd ever carried (I had to pay for the full 3 months of our accommodation upfront) and I was mightily pissed off that it was about to go up in flames and my sister wouldn't get to spend it (I decided that thats what my parents would do with all my stuff - give it to her). I also thought about all the people living in the houses below that we would fall onto. It was after dark and I was sure that they'd be in their homes, and wished that I had a way to warn them to evacuate.

Most people I've spoken to have had a bad flight at some point before and so had I. This one was different though. It left me aware of my mortality. For me now, the focal point of travel has switched from excitement about the destination, to paralytic fear and anxiety for weeks preceeding the trip over the stupid flight.

I turned to the internet. Surely I couldn't be the only person this has happened to, I thought. I was right! There are courses designed especially for people like me and the unanimous opinion was that the best fix was one offered by Virgin Atlantic. There was one problem: I would have to fly to London for that.

I've tried talking to friends and family in the hope that someone might have some comforting words and I instead discovered that nearly everyone else had some form of latent anxiety too. I even learnt from my aunt that she had been in a plane that crashed (it was a minor accident, but an accident all the same)! People suggested I see a psychologist but that won't cut it - I need someone who is both a psychologist and someone who can explain to me what all the noises in the plane mean, and the technical reason why the plane will "never" fall out of the sky because of turbulence. My trust was shattered that day.

Some flights are worse than others: on a recent flight out of Vancouver we were on the smallest plane I'd ever been on (it had propellers and only 12 rows of seating). This was definitely the flight that I freaked out worst at, and for no reason at all other than how the plane looked. When we walked across the tarmac and onto the plane I felt like I was being led into a gas chamber. The flight wasn't even particularly turbulent and I'm ashamed to admit that I fretted and quietly howled the whole way through it. Scott thinks that the flight attendant thought that I was grieving a lost friend or relative, which took the edge of my embarrassment (he's kind that way). I had to greet my inlaws-to-be with red puff-face though.

I'm still looking for a course to take and would appreciate any information or advice that anyone has. My fiance is from a country very far way away from mine and I don't want to spend the rest of my life going through this every six months, because not flying anymore simply isn't an option.

Incase you're wondering, the flight was with Aerolineas Argentinas. This flight isn't the reason that I will never user this awful airline again, because we all flew together to Iguazu Falls after that. Scott wrote about them, and after that I can truthfully say that I would rather pay 3 times the cost with any other airline than use Aerolineas Argentinas ever again. If you are ever given the option, do not travel with this airline. They are very bad.

Open letter to our Foreign Media friends by Peter Davies

11 June, 2010 - 12:35

My friend Kathleen emailed me this open letter this morning. I'm not sure really if I'm allowed to re-post this here, I hope they don't mind. Please also visit the original posting by Peter Davies on Super Sport at

This is a perfect time for him to have written this, and I hope that the patriotism and excitement that are running so high now continue to do so for a very long time. I hope that our foreign guests go home and tell their friends and families back home just how friendly most South Africans are, and what a pretty country we have. I hope our reputation changes to something more positive, and I believe that it deserves too. I am happy that we've been given this opportunity to invite the rest of the world over to our place.

Open letter to our Foreign Media friends

Dear World Cup visitors,

Now that you are safely in our country you are no doubt happily realising you are not in a war zone. This may be in stark contrast to what you have been bracing yourself for should you have listened to Uli Hoeness or are an avid reader of English tabloids, which as we all know are only good for wrapping fish ‘n chips and advancing the careers of large-chested teens on page three.

As you emerge blinking from your luxury hotel room into our big blue winter skies, you will surely realise you are far more likely to be killed by kindness than by a stray bullet. Remember that most of the media reports you have read, which have informed your views on South Africa, will have been penned by your colleagues. And you know what journos are like, what with their earnest two thousand word opuses on the op-ed pages designed to fix this country’s ills in a heartbeat. Based on exhaustive research over a three-day visit.

Funnily enough, we are well aware of the challenges we face as a nation and you will find that 95% of the population is singing from the same song-sheet in order to ensure we can live up to our own exacting expectations.

We are also here to look after you and show you a good time. Prepare to have your preconceived notions well and truly shattered.

For instance, you will find precious few rhinos loitering on street corners, we don’t know a guy in Cairo named Dave just because we live in Johannesburg, and our stadiums are magnificent, world-class works of art.

Which is obviously news to the Sky TV sports anchor who this week remarked that Soccer City looked ‘ a bit of a mess’. She didn’t realize the gaps in the calabash exterior are to allow in natural light and for illumination at night, and not the result of vandalism or negligence.

The fact that England, the nation which safely delivered Wembley Stadium two years past its due date, is prepared to offer us South Africans advice on stadium-readiness should not be surprising. The steadiest stream of World Cup misinformation has emanated from our mates the Brits over the past couple of years.

If it’s not man-eating snakes lurking in Rooney’s closet at the team’s (allegedly half-built) Royal Bafokeng training base, then it’s machete-wielding gangs roaming the suburbs in search of tattooed, overweight Dagenham dole-queuers to ransack and leave gurgling on the pavement.

In fact what you are entering is the world’s most fascinating country, in my opinion. I’m pretty sure you will find that it functions far more smoothly, is heaps more friendly and offers plenty more diversions than you could possibly have imagined.

In addition to which, the population actually acts like human beings, and not like they are being controlled by sinister forces from above which turns them into bureaucratically-manipulated robots.

Plus we have world’s most beautiful women. The best weather. Eight channels of SuperSport. Food and wine from the gods themselves. Wildlife galore. (Love the Dutch team’s bus slogan: “Don’t fear the Big 5; fear the Orange 11”).

Having said all that, Jo’burg is undoubtedly one of the world’s most dangerous cities. Just ask those Taiwanese tourists who got out of their hire car to take close-up snaps of tawny beasts at the Lion Park a few years back. Actually, ask what’s left of them. And did you know the chances of being felled by cardiac arrest from devouring a mountain of meat at one of our world class restaurants has been statistically proven to be 33.3% higher in Jozi than in any other major urban centre not built upon a significant waterway? It’s true. I swear. I read it in a British tabloid.

Having recently spent two years comfortably cocooned in small town America, I’m only too aware of how little much of the outside world knows about this country. The American channel I used to work for has a massive battalion of employees descending on World Cup country. It has also apparently issued a recommendation to its staff to stay in their hotels when not working.

Given that said corporation is headquartered in a small town which many say is “best viewed through the rear-view mirror”, I find the recommendation, if it’s true, to be utterly astounding. In fact I don’t believe it is true. Contrary to the global stereotype, the best Americans are some of the sharpest people in the world. The fact they have bought most tickets in this World Cup proves the point.

Of course I have only lived in Johannesburg, city of terror and dread, virtually all my life, so don’t have the in-depth knowledge of say, an English broadsheet journalist who has been in the country for the weekend, but nevertheless I will share some of my observations gleaned over the years.

Any foreign tourist or media representative who is worried about his safety in South Africa should have a word with the Lions rugby fans from last year, or the Barmy Army cricket supporters (lilywhite hecklers by day, slurring, lager-fuelled lobsters by night). They managed just fine, just like the hundreds of thousands of fans who have streamed into the country over the past fifteen years for various World Cups, Super 14 matches, TriNations tests and other international events. Negligible crime incidents involving said fans over said period of time.

Trivia question: which country has hosted the most global sporting events over the past decade and a half? You don’t need me to answer that, do you?

In addition. Don’t fret when you see a gaggle of freelance salesmen converge on your car at the traffic lights (or robots as we like to call them) festooned with products. You are not about to be hijacked. Here in Mzansi (nickname for SA) we do a lot of our purchasing at robots. Here you can stock up on flags, coat hangers, batteries, roses for the wife you forgot to kiss goodbye this morning and a whole host of useful merchandise.

Similarly, that guy who runs up as you park the rental car outside the pub intends no malice. He’s your car guard. Give him a buck or two and your vehicle will be safe while you refuel for hours on our cheap, splendid beer. Unless someone breaks into it, of course.

We drive on the left in this country. Exercise caution when crossing the road at a jog-trot with 15 kilograms of camera gear on your back. Exercise common sense full stop. Nothing more. Nothing less. If you want to leave wads of cash in your hotel room like our Colombian friends, don’t be surprised if it grows wings.

Bottomline. Get out there and breathe in great lusty lungfuls of this amazing nation. Tuck into our world-class food and wines. Disprove the adage that white men can’t dance at our throbbing, vibrant night-clubs. Learn to say hello in all eleven official languages. Watch at least one game in a township. You will not be robbed and shot. You will be welcomed like a lost family member and looked after as if you are royalty. Ask those Bulls rugby fans who journeyed to Soweto recently.

With a dollop of the right attitude, this country will change your life.

It’s Africa’s time. Vacate your hotel room. Join the party.

Waka waka eh eh.

Christopher Lee. He makes pretty illustrations.

23 April, 2010 - 23:13

Have a look at this guy's work - - adorable and with such personality in his characters! I Am Medic is one of my favourites:

There seems to be a trend lately towards having far-apart eyes in illustrations, a la The Simpsons. On that note, I have noticed an interesting thing this week: Jacob Zuma (who is often referred to here by his nickname JZ) has this same feature! Scott and I have been spending a lot of time in the South African Home Affairs offices here (we're applying for a longer-term temporary residence permit for him*) and in each office is a framed picture of the man. For your viewing pleasure I present to you a picture of the man himself. Perhaps the shape or style of his glasses accentuates it.

Anyway, I digress. I found Christopher Lee's website from Smashing Magazine's article Beautiful Illustrator Artworks By Artists Around The World. I follow them on Twitter ( and suggest that you do too. They post links to their site which is full of useful articles with how-tos, compilations of beautiful graphic art and designs and other nice miscellany.

* This experience actually warrants a post or two of its own. Nothing could have prepared us for what we were in for.

British-government's banned buzzwords

14 April, 2010 - 00:03

In March last year the British government issued an official list of words that have been banned from use by the councils in order that council members effectively communicate. Read the BBC reports on this.

I find this quite amusing.. and I also think that this is a Good Thing, albeit a rather daft list ("client" is a buzzword?). With people everywhere reading many of the same things thanks to the high-speed information sharing of the internet, the meanings of catchy phrases will often become warped or altogether changed, and either way, lose their meaning and their impact.

The full list of the banned words below:

Agencies Ambassador Area based
Area focused Autonomous Baseline
Beacon Benchmarking Best Practice
Blue sky thinking Bottom-Up CAAs
Can do culture Capabilities Capacity
Capacity building Cascading Cautiously welcome
Challenge Champion Citizen empowerment
Client Cohesive communities Cohesiveness
Collaboration Commissioning Community engagement
Compact Conditionality Consensual
Contestability Contextual Core Message
Core principles Core Value Coterminosity
Coterminous Cross-cutting Cross-fertilisation
Customer Democratic legitimacy Democratic mandate
Dialogue Direction of travel Distorts spending priorities
Double devolution Downstream Early Win
Edge-fit Embedded Empowerment
Enabler Engagement Engaging users
Enhance Evidence Base Exemplar
External challenge Facilitate Fast-Track
Flex Flexibilities and Freedoms Framework
Fulcrum Functionality Funding streams
Gateway review Going forward Good practice
Governance Guidelines Holistic
Holistic governance Horizon scanning Improvement levers
Incentivising Income streams Indicators
Initiative Innovative capacity Inspectorates
Interdepartmental Interface Iteration
Joined up Joint working LAAs
Level playing field Lever Leverage
Localities Lowlights MAAs
Mainstreaming Management capacity Meaningful consultation
Meaningful dialogue Mechanisms Menu of Options
Multi-agency Multidisciplinary Municipalities
Network model Normalising Outcomes
Output Outsourced Overarching
Paradigm Parameter Participatory
Partnership working Partnerships Pathfinder
Peer challenge Performance Network Place shaping
Pooled budgets Pooled resources Pooled risk
Populace Potentialities Practitioners
Predictors of Beaconicity Preventative services Prioritization
Priority Proactive Process driven
Procure Procurement Promulgate
Proportionality Protocol Provider vehicles
Quantum Quick hit Quick win
Rationalisation Rebaselining Reconfigured
Resource allocation Revenue Streams Risk based
Robust Scaled-back Scoping
Sector wise Seedbed Self-aggrandizement
Service users Shared priority Shell developments
Signpost Single conversations Single point of contact
Situational Slippage Social contracts
Social exclusion Spatial Stakeholder
Step change Strategic Strategic priorities
Streamlined Sub-regional Subsidiarity
Sustainable Sustainable communities Symposium ­­
Synergies Systematics Taxonomy
Tested for Soundness Thematic Thinking outside of the box
Third sector Toolkit Top-down
Trajectory Tranche Transactional
Transformational Transparency Upstream
Upward trend Utilise Value-added
Vision ­ Visionary Welcome

We could use such a list in tech. Web 2.0 anyone?

Brothers Dressler: peculiarly combining two of my great loves

9 April, 2010 - 09:41

Furniture and shoes!

Brothers Dressler Bench Seating

These benches are made from salvaged items and are therefore all unique. I am not sure that I would want one of these babies in my home (only because it might be creepy when you get up in the dark to get a glass of water at night) but I just love the idea and the execution.

Incidentally, they have rather a beautifully designed and simple website too, go look ->

The in-person version of telesales

7 March, 2010 - 20:02

I have a peeve.

When I'm in a store, or walking out on the street somewhere, I like to listen to music on my ipod. I am not here to socialize, and if were rest assured I would not be doing it with my ipod on.

On more than one occasion now I have been in a store doing my thing and minding my own business, and someone promoting some or other product I'm not interested in will approach me. I have even had situations where I've been so engrossed in what I'm doing that I have not noticed them, and they tap me on the shoulder from behind to get my attention.

"Would you like to try our new Nondescript Conditioner (tm)?"

Yes, in fact I do.. it's exactly what I want, and that's why I walked right past and neither noticed it nor cared. Miaw!

Another thing: I live in Johannesburg where we have something of a crime problem. When someone sneaks up on me in a public place I get:

  1. a terrible fright
  2. a vicious self-defense knee-jerk reaction
  3. pretty annoyed!

Hopefully soon people will realize that there is an etiquette around bothering people who are most likely not interested in what you're selling, and that those who are interested will give you a sign.

Originally written on 2008-09-23 14:24

Pretty Fly

5 March, 2010 - 19:57

Well. Who didn't grow up listening to these punks. I've watched this so many times and still it amuses me.

And a few years later we would be presented with Eminem who from a distance actually does look a lot like the subject in Pretty Fly.

Not convinced? Observe Exhibit A:

And Exhibit B, a still from the video:

Talking to a bully

5 March, 2010 - 12:55

I was in an abusive relationship. It's a very good feeling to be able to write "was" and not "am" and I count every little improvement milestone. There were three physical incidents but it was predominantly emotional and mental. It first began 7 months into the relationship but I did not start acknowledging that something was very wrong and talking to friends until about a year later. It was something that I did not know how to identify or recognize, and did not realize the situation that I was getting into. Our friends had no idea. He was good at controlling and hiding his explosive temper and putting on a show for everyone, as these types always are.

This was filmed secretly by him on his cellphone and it took place a while after we'd broken up (no idea how I landed up with a copy, he must have given it to me though I cannot imagine why). Even though there is nothing happening in this video I get knots in my stomach and my heart races when I watch it. Nina removed the audio for me because I don't want to hear his voice, and I don't particularly want anyone else to have to either :) It's interesting to watch how I'm reacting to his line of interrogation. I always felt like I'd handled the situation so poorly for allowing him do and say the things he did, but from watching this video now I feel quite proud because I kept my composure so well even though at the time what I wanted more than anything was to deliver a swift stiletto to the junk!

It's years later and I still have nightmares from time to time and wake up with a pounding heart and sometimes crying. One of my best friends suggested that this is happening now because I'm in a safe enough place to start processing the things that happened. Talking about it helps. I wonder how much longer I'll still feel the need to talk about it for.

It all ends well though! There are many things that I've learned from the experience. For one thing, it made me realize yet again what truly special people I have chosen to call my friends. As soon as I let them be, they were more supportive and loving than I could ever express adequate thanks for. Also I've gained a different type of self-awareness specifically relating to my boundaries, and most importantly a deep appreciation for what, and who, I have now.

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